Thumbs up if you knew it was Teacher Appreciation Week this week. Hold them up high. As we enter the "week" in which we are told to appreciate teachers (wait, what?), so many thoughts are swirling through my mind. This, as most of you know, is not uncommon for my brain to swirl around with emotions and thoughts and beliefs. I won't try to dismantle all of them, but let me try for a few:
1. Despite what some people think, teachers are actually appreciated much more than is talked about. Ask any parent the last day of summer how much they appreciate teachers. What about the day after Halloween? Spring Break? "Thank goodness they are headed back to school" is the battle cry heard round the world (or at least in parking lots and coffee shops where frazzled parents sit and cheer). Seriously, I hold a firm belief that teachers are appreciated quite a bit...but I don't think they are TOLD how much they are appreciated. This is human nature, in my humble opinion. We have a tendency to complain when our order is wrong at the restaurant, but it takes a lot of work to remember to thank the server for the great service when it happens. We grouse (on Facebook, apparently, a lot, I see) about the airline delaying us from getting home on time, but how often do we take the time to thank the gate agents for their patience when they are harried? The same holds true in education, I think. It seems easy to storm into the school to complain about a missed memo or a grade being too low, but how often is there simply a "thanks for caring about my kid every day"? It's almost as if we wait for the same entity that came up with the fact that May is also National Bike Month and National Hamburger Month to tell us that this week is Teacher Appreciation Week, and then we pull out all the stops. I am blessed to talk with teachers a LOT! Want to know what they tell me means even more to them than having lunch provided every day this week by the PTA/PTO/PTSA (whatever you call it in your neck of the woods)? Being told they make a difference in the life of your child. (Don't cancel the lunches and the coffee gift cards, though. They love those, too!)
2. Every teacher has a story of how they are in the position they are in of shaping the minds of pre-school, syrup-sticky fingered sweeties to helping doctoral students finish their dissertations. Sometimes those stories are born of family generations of educators ("I had no choice---teaching is simply what my entire family has done!"); sometimes, teachers choose the field because they hated school and wanted to make a difference in the lives of young people who might otherwise hate school; sometimes, there are those of us who lined up our stuffed animals and tried to teach them how to spell words correctly (and now have substituted the stuffed animals for a husband who has to endure said practice). Every teacher has a story of how they happen to be in this position that sometimes seems so thankless and sometimes feels as though they are defending every move they make (i.e. "I expect that you will spell the word 'principal' correctly and not as 'principle' if you plan on becoming one", I may or may not tell my university students). Perhaps, for Teacher Appreciation Week, it would be lovely to ask a teacher what their story is....and to truly listen to their answer.
3. Teaching, as most everyone knows (but it doesn't hurt to have the reminder) is such complex work. While there is no formula for doing it correctly, there are so many pieces to the comprehensive process of educating students, it baffles the mind! While it is a role not for the faint of heart, it is also the most fulfilling, passionate, enduring endeavor I can think of. To have students return (in person or on Facebook) and tell you something they remember and will hold near and dear to them that YOU taught them is a treasure unmatched by most any imaginable gift (even better than a coffee cup with "World's Greatest Teacher", which is pretty cool, too). Certainly, we live in a time in which there are disputes about our education system and how it can be improved, and it CAN! So, let's get in there, with all the passion we can muster and weigh in on the ways we can improve the work that impacts all other work!
Just for today, why not consider the impact a teacher had on your life and take a moment to thank them? For the record, I tell my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Edgerton, on at least a yearly basis, the tremendous impact she had on my decision to become a teacher. P.S. I don't wait for Teacher Appreciation Week to do it. And, Mrs. Edgerton, I still read "Where the Red Fern Grows" to kids (my niece, my grand-niece, students in schools, etc.) any chance I get because of you.